EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Marcel Reece, the Pro Bowl fullback for the Oakland Raiders, rumbled for a career-high 123 yards rushing, including a career-long 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter Sunday. He also caught two passes for 38 yards.
And while Reece was playing tailback out of necessity and making his first start there this season because of injuries to Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart, it raises the question: Is Reece a special player in the NFL, or simply a very good one on a bad team?
Then there’s this: Whatever the answer to the above, why has it taken the Raiders so long to figure it out and make him a feature of this offense?
For a 4-9 team slipping backward after a 37-27 loss to the New York Jets, there are always more questions than answers. And as far as Reece is concerned, he’d turn in those gaudy individual stats for a team victory.
“If we lose,” Reece said, “it’s irrelevant. We worked too hard to have the outcome be like this. We need ‘W’s.’ This game is about winning. It’s about production. Stats don’t matter. The numbers don’t matter unless you win, and we didn’t do it.”
But it was not for a lack of Reece.
The “matchup nightmare” who was a wide receiver in college, also had a big game starting at tailback in place of the injured McFadden last season, albeit in blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, going for 103 yards on the ground and catching four passes for 90 yards.
Yet, Marcel Reece had been as silent as Marcel Marceau in the offense this season despite the front office thinking enough of him to sign him to a three-year contract extension in September. In the Raiders’ previous four games, Reece had a total of 20 touches. Sunday, he had 21 (19 carries and two receptions on five targets).
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” said rookie quarterback Matt McGloin. “He does what we ask of him. He busts his tail day in and day out. He catches the ball well, runs the ball well, blocks well. He’s an all-around guy, a great guy and a great player and we’re lucky to have him [as] part of this organization.”
Especially when his deceptive speed was on display in outrunning the Jets’ secondary on a power run up the gut.
“It was a routine run,” Reece claimed. “The O-line stepped up and did a great job and made my job easy.”
The touchdown, the longest run against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense this season, got the Raiders to within 20-10 on the second play of the second half. Things were looking up.
Oakland’s defense, though, could not hold up, and the offense and special teams – Sebastian Janikowski missed another field-goal try, this one from 52 yards, and the Jets took advantage of the short field to score a touchdown three plays later, and the Jets blocked a Marquette King punt for a TD – had just enough misfires to keep the game out of reach.
Reece could not put his finger on when the game flipped, though.
“If I could put a finger on it, he said, “I would have changed it.”
That task, invariably, falls to coach Dennis Allen.
“The big run was a huge run and a huge play in the football game,” Allen said. “I thought, overall, he did a nice job of running the football. I’ll have to go back and look and see exactly how well he played. But I thought, overall, he did a nice job.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but then again, as Reece said, it doesn’t matter much without a victory, right?